In a season where dreams have been deferred, Bowie State’s football program remains on the precipice of history.  Despite missing a chance to play for a CIAA championship, the Bulldogs will begin the quest for a national title by hosting Delta State in an NCAA Division II first round playoff on the Prince George’s County campus.

“We wanted to win the CIAA but this has already been a record breaking season,” said Bowie State athletics director Clyde Doughty.  “For the second time in three years we’re competing for a national championship. Two years ago, we were just happy to be there but now our players and coaches are better equipped to handle the moment.”

Bowie State has competed in football since 1972 but has never hosted a national playoff game. That will change Saturday, Nov. 18 when it joins Virginia State as CIAA/HBCU teams that will host first round games this year.  The teams met in a nationally televised homecoming thriller that the Trojans won 47-35, which was the only blemish on the Bulldogs record.

This is a milestone for the conference as well.  The CIAA’s basketball credibility nationwide stands alone in Division II thanks to a national championship legacy and the preeminence of its tournament.  However, Winston Salem State’s run to the national championship game in 2012 helped bring credibility to CIAA football inside the NCAA’s Super Region 2 which enhanced Virginia State and Bowie State arguments for hosting along with earning No. 2 and No. 4 seeds, respectively.

“This is a big time from a conference standpoint with two teams hosting games on the same day,” said Bowie State head coach Damon Wilson. “It’s important for us to be prepared and put on a good show to represent our school and the conference.”

Bowie State has been nationally ranked in the Top 25 all season.  When they lost to Virginia State they had risen to 14th in Division II behind a record setting offensive trio of first team all-CIAA performers that led the school’s most prolific single season in history.  Quarterback Amir Hall, running back Robert Chesson and receiver Brandon Britton were the cogs in an offensive unit that was entertaining and explosive, and one whose reputation spiked attendance at home games.

Hall, who led the nation in passing for the first half of the year, finished the regular season with 3,817 yards, 39 touchdowns and just four interceptions to statistically obliterate his CIAA counterparts while completing 67 percent of his passes as well.  Britton was the main beneficiary of Hall’s prolific season leading the CIAA also with 62 receptions, 893 yards and 13 touchdowns. Meanwhile, it was Chesson who fueled the offense with his versatility.  He rushed for 1,332 yards and scored 20 TDs but also caught 23 passes for 250 yards and three scores as a receiver.  

“Everything we’re doing right now is historic,” said Wilson.  “We’re not caught up in the moment. This is for fans, alumni, and the community. When our players come back and visit as alumnus they will realize just how special what they accomplished is.”

Delta State is not going to be an easy out for Bowie State, though.  The 2000 national champions and runners-up in 2014 are no strangers to the biggest show in Division II football.  However, they are facing a long road trip from Cleveland, Miss., which is an advantage the Bulldogs hopes to use in their favor.

“You work all year to play for a national championship and we’ve got to seize this moment at home,” said Doughty.  “A win moves you one step closer to the ultimate prize.”